Last Updated on 10 September 2009

I found out recently the Dutch don’t have the word whimsical in their vocabulary. How do you define that for someone who has never heard it?

The best way I was able to describe whimsical to a Dutch friend of mine was with an example… I made reference to bikes in Amsterdam that women decorate with plastic flowers. Happy. Lite. Fun. Easy Going. Amusing. Humorous.

We English-speakers don’t have the equivalent of the Dutch word gezellig. The closest I can think of is copasetic. But it is much more than that – more intimate. It means cozy, enjoyable, pleasant. The wikionary describes it as having company with a pleasant, friendly ambiance. Cozy atmosphere. An upbeat feeling about the surroundings.

Gezellig probably feels like what the people in these houses (below) feel.

It is fascinating when you talk about another language than your own. Some months ago, I did a post on the phrase “it is all Greek to me.” I pondered what do the Greeks say when they read something they can’t comprehend?

The Greeks have two words for time, chronos and “kairos.” Chronos refers to the measure of time – sequential. Kairos refers to perceived time. For example, customers waited in line for their latte for just under two minutes (chronos), but the lack of air conditioning and crying baby made it feel more like five. (kairos)

Having a second word to represent perceived time expands our vocabulary – and in this instance – how time has more than one ‘feel’ to it.